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November 13, 2011

Burlington Mayoral Caucus: Ashe and Weinberger Tie; Revote Will Decide Winner

DSC00825Everyone thought the Burlington Democratic mayoral caucus would be close, but no one guessed it would end in a dead heat without a winner.

More than 1300 voters attended the marathon caucus at Memorial Auditorium on Sunday. After three rounds of voting, Miro Weinberger and Tim Ashe (pictured left to right) were tied at 540 votes apiece. Rather than force a fourth round of voting after many caucus-goers had gone home, party leaders opted to suspended the proceedings and schedule a run-off vote at a later date.

Jason Lorber was first out of the four-person race, followed by Bram Kranichfeld. With just Ashe and Weinberger left, many voters cast their final ballot and headed home, figuring a winner would be announced by the time they got there.

When the third round of a ballots were counted, Ashe held a one-vote lead (out of 1083 ballots cast); the results of the third round were Ashe 541 and Weinberger 540. But it wasn't enough. Announcing the results from the stage, Burlington Democratic Party chairman Steve Howard (pictured below) said the winner needed a majority of votes cast to win — in this case 542 — and neither candidate had met the threshold. Howard said there were two write-in votes that counted toward that majority threshold, meaning Ashe could not claim victory.

DSC00796That touched off a debate about party bylaws that sent party leaders, the candidates and lawyers behind closed doors to hash out the particulars. There were audible groans in the auditorium. Campaign operatives scrambled to reach supporters by phone, email or Twitter to get them back to Memorial Auditorium to vote in what they thought would be a decisive, tie-breaking fourth ballot. 

After some time, though, Howard and the candidates emerged to announce there would not be another vote on Sunday night. The candidates and party leaders agreed they would recount the votes from that round, and if there was still no winner, the party would adjourn the caucus and reassemble in a few weeks for the final vote.

After an hour-long recount that saw many of the few remaining people leave the auditorium, Howard emerged and announced the results: Weinberger and Ashe each had 540 votes, and five votes were considered "spoiled" because they were for a candidate already eliminated or a write-in candidate not eligible to win. A winning majority was 543, so neither candidate had won.

A Democratic unity rally scheduled for noon on Monday has been rescheduled and a new date for the caucus vote has not been set. Both Weinberger and Ashe said afterward they would use the time to regroup and campaign hard.

Here are the results for the first two rounds of voting:

Round 1

Total - 1309

Needed to win - 655

Ashe - 458

Weinberger - 391

Kranichfeld - 354

Lorber - 106

(Lorber dropped out after the first round, even though party bylaws allowed him to remain on the ballot in the second round. He received a standing ovation).

Round 2

Total - 1217

Needed to win - 609

Ashe - 471

Weinberger - 390

Kranichfeld -356

(Kranichfeld eliminated)

Round 3

Total - 1083

Needed to win - 542

Ashe - 541

Weinberger - 540


Total - 1085

Needed to win - 543

Ashe - 540

Weinberger - 540

Spoiled - 5

(Tie. Caucus suspended. Final vote at future date).

(Disclosure: Tim Ashe is the domestic partner of Seven Days publisher and coeditor Paula Routly, who is not assigning or editing stories or columns about Burlington politics for the duration of the campaign. Seven Days staffer Andy Bromage has that role.)

Well, aren't I a schmuck for not attending. It's not every day you get the opportunity to pick the next mayor of your state's largest city all by yourself. Damn you, me!

And I came with 2 others & was told it was too late at 2:10pm. Damn. But there was no way we could have stayed 7 hours anyway. (Kids' bedtime, diabetes, stroke recovery, post- pneumonia, & just getting old & tired.) Damn again. These 3 women just wanted to vote.

I am from Essex, but I watched a good part of the voting on the live feed. Sure, this is not a tidy result, but I thought the Burlington Dems did a wonderful job of handling this situation. It seems open, fair and transparent. Steve Howard did a good job as well as MC of the event. Democracy may sometimes be messy, but it is preferable to the alternatives.

If only Burlington Dems were allowed to participate in this caucus, why was Steve Howard, the chair of the state party, managing the event? He lives in Rutland.

Caleb, Steve Howard lives in Burlington. He did a fabulous job with the event and a hard set of circumstances. Our hats are off to him. As for the people who arrived at 2:10, it was posted everywhere that the doors closed at 2pm. No excuses for tardiness.

a few comments or questions.
Has Sec. of State Condos moved to Burlington, thus becoming a member of the Burl. Democratic party, or was he just on stage as Sec. Of state? If on stage as Sec. of state, why would he be their? I do not believe individual caucuses are controlled by that office, though I may be wrong.
I noticed the careful wording of the Democratic leaders not to say they were going into executive session to make a decision, wise choice.
What ward does Steve Howard live in? What are his political plans?
While it is reported the ballot said write in votes would not be counted in the third round, I believe it was announced you could write in.
While it did appear confusing but a mostly well run event,it had a lot in common with a lot of situations in Burlington.
A lot happened and nothing got solved.
Any answers to the posed question would be appreciated, as well as responses to the opinions I have offered.

Why didn't they use IRV?

Wasn't Steve Howard the state rep from Rutland? And didn't he run for Lt. Gov. from Rutland?

Did he move to Burlington because it's a better launching pad for statewide office?

Caleb. Thus my questions. What is Howard up to?
Still looking for what ward he resides, plans for local office to relaunch political career come to question.
He may have relocated for job, family situations, but I really would like to know.

Dale and Caleb, can you say state senator in the case Ashe is elected?

FrOm the Freeps:

"Following that campaign, Howard, 40, said it was time for him to make a change. Aside from serving in the part-time Legislature, he had been working as an organizer for causes and political campaigns in the Northeast. Howard said he left that behind in January and moved to Burlington. “I wanted to try a different scene,” he said.

He has a job as a victims’ advocate working for Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan, another active player in the local political scene. In September, Howard became chairman of the city Democratic committee just as it was heading into an four-way battle for the mayoral nomination. That reached a dramatic crescendo at Sunday’s caucus, when state Sen. Tim Ashe and developer Miro Weinberger tied for the lead. The caucus will resume in a few weeks, with the date to be determined later this week, Howard said."

Dale et. al. Steve lives on South Union Street. I believe Ward 6. I hope he runs for something soon! He did a fantastic job steering the ship last night.

Secretary Condos and Treasurer Pearce along with several others were invited to participate in what is likely to be one of the biggest gathering of Democrats in a while.

Kudos again to Jason and Bram for running solid, above board campaigns.

Twitter - @CouncilorAdrian

"In September, Howard became chairman of the city Democratic committee."

Hmm . . . Lives his whole life in Rutland. Serves in the Legislature from Rutland. Runs for Lt. Governor from Rutland.

Then, as soon as election is over moves to Burlington and takes over the City Dem. Committee? Isn't that called carpetbagging?

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